News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Principal's Group Says Salaries Have Declined

Pointing to new survey results, an administrators’ group said last week that principals’ salaries in the United States declined slightly this year.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals cited figures showing that the average pay of an elementary principal is $75,144 for 2003-04, down from $75,291 in 2002-03.

"This is the first salary decline in over a decade, which certainly doesn’t reflect the higher expectations and increasing responsibilities of the profession," Vincent L. Ferrandino, the executive director of the NAESP, said in a statement issued at the organization’s annual convention, held April 16-20 in San Francisco.

The numbers are from a yearly review of salaries in public education carried out by the Educational Research Service, a nonprofit group founded by seven organizations, including the NAESP, to do such analyses. The research service is based in Arlington, Va.

The average salary figures are not based on a statistically representative national sample, but they do factor in data from small, medium, and large school systems.

—Jeff Archer

Calif. School District’s Policy Against Discrimination Accepted

California Department of Education officials have decided that a new anti- discrimination policy approved by the school board of the Westminster school district technically complies with state laws protecting transgender people.

But in a letter to the board of the 10,000-student district in Orange County, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell cautioned the board in its application of the new policy because of its definition of "gender."

Under pressure from the state, the district board added the categories "sex," "sexual orientation," "race," "ancestry," and "national origin" to the policy in a 3-2 vote earlier this month. But the board also added its own definition of "gender"—a term already in its policy—as "the biological sex of an individual."

Mr. O’Connell wrote: "Your attempt to redefine ‘gender’ ... creates grave doubt as to the sincerity of the board’s action and whether it intends to apply its policy in a manner consistent with state law."

Three of the five board members had repeatedly refused to comply with the request of state education officials to add several categories, including "sex," to the list of legal areas for receiving discrimination complaints. One of those board members, Judy A. Ahrens, had said that the addition of the word "sex" to a policy that already included the word "gender" gave gender the connotation of being someone’s perceived sex rather than biological sex—a connotation that she said conflicted with her religious morals. ("Decision Pending in California Anti-Discrimination Flap," April 21, 2004.)

Mr. O’Connell wrote that the board’s definition of "gender" has no legal weight.

—Mary Ann Zehr

D.C. Council Votes Against Mayor’s Proposal for Schools

Mayor Anthony A. Williams of Washington lost a bid last week to assume greater control of the capital city’s troubled public schools.

Members of the District of Columbia Council voted 9-4 on April 20 not to support the mayor’s plan to establish an all-elected board that would serve in an advisory capacity only. The mayor would have appointed a chancellor to run the 65,000-student district.

Instead, council members voted to return to an all- elected school board after 2006, removing the mayor’s power to appoint four of the board’s nine members. A final vote on that issue is scheduled for next month.

The school board, meanwhile, is searching for a permanent superintendent. ("District of Columbia Schools Facing Leadership Dilemma," March 31, 2004.)

—Ann Bradley

Illinois Board Won’t Expel Students Involved in Hazing

Lacrosse players at an Illinois high school who were suspended for paddling younger teammates won’t be expelled, the district school board has decided.

The board of the Glenbrook High School District 225 voted on April 18 to allow 11 players who it said had violated the district’s anti-hazing policy to return to school after being suspended.

The players, members of the 24-person varsity lacrosse team at Glenbrook South High School, will be required to complete a community-service project, under the direction of their coach, addressing the problems of hazing and alcohol abuse, the board decided.

But the board upheld a previous decision, made after the March 12 paddling incident came to light, to cancel the rest of the lacrosse season. The school district was in the spotlight last year after a videotaped hazing incident involving a girls’ powderpuff football game made national news.

—Ann Bradley

Camden, N.J., Charter Decides In Favor of Union Representation

Teachers at a Camden, N.J., charter school voted last week to join the state’s largest teachers’ union.

By a vote of 33-20 on April 21, teachers at LEAP Academy Charter School decided to be represented by the New Jersey Education Association, according to union spokesman Steve Baker.

Of the 48 charter schools operating in New Jersey, 11, including LEAP, are represented by the 179,000-member affiliate of the National Education Association, Mr. Baker said.

Charter schools are public schools but operate independently of most district rules. Their teachers normally work out their contracts with the entities that run the schools.

Tammy McGinley, a teacher who helped organize the vote at LEAP Academy Charter School, told The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper that teachers there were seeking job security and higher salaries, among other benefits.

—Catherine Gewertz

Fla. Charter School Charged With Hiring Out Students

A Florida charter school has been charged with fraud for allegedly hiring out students to work on road crews and pocketing extra money from the state.

Assistant State Attorney Russell G. Edgar charged last week, after an eight-month investigation, that Escambia Charter School in Gonzalez, Fla., sent students to work on state road projects instead of teaching them.

The school’s president and its principal are accused of submitting false attendance records, schedules, and report cards to obtain state funds.

Prosecutors allege that students spent only one hour a day in classes for four days a week, working the rest of the time on state road projects. The school had received about $250,000 for students’ labor from the Florida Department of Transportation in the past five years, and pocketed about $40,000 a year after paying students, according to the charges filed.

The investigation was provoked by complaints from former students and teachers at the school, Mr. Edgar said in an interview. The school, which serves students who had academic or disciplinary problems in traditional public schools, has about 150 students. It could be forced to return up to $140,000 to the state department of education and pay fines.

Stanley Callender, the president of Escambia Charter School, said he had been advised by his lawyers not to discuss the situation.

—Joetta L. Sack

‘Day of Silence’ Events Aim To Counter Discrimination

Students across the nation took part last week in a "Day of Silence" meant to protest discrimination and harassment faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths in schools.

Organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, known as GLSEN, the April 21 event involved some 250,000 students from more than 2,600 high schools and colleges, according to the advocacy group. Many participated in "breaking the silence" rallies in several cities, including Austin, Texas; Boston; Chicago; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; and Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

The activities were coordinated by the New York City-based network and the United States Student Association in Washington.

—Ann Bradley

Ohio School Forced to Shelve Plan for Student Arcade Room

An Ohio school district has stopped plans for an arcade at a high school because a city ordinance prohibits it.

Garfield Heights High School had planned to put an activity room next to the cafeteria to serve as a reward for students. However, a 22-year-old ordinance in the city of Garfield Heights prohibits children under the age of 18 from playing games such as pinball and air hockey before 3 p.m. on school days unless accompanied by their parents.

Officials said the ordinance was intended to prevent children from playing such games instead of attending school.

Terrance Olszewski, the principal of the 1,200-student high school, said that under his plan, teachers would have been given 10 passes each week to distribute to students in grades 9-11 for such positive behavior as good attendance, courtesy, and good grades.

The students with passes would have been able to spend time in the activity room during their lunch periods. The room would have been open to all seniors.

Although the room is all set up, the project has been put on hold until the city council can amend the law.

—Catherine A. Carroll

Vol. 23, Issue 33, Page 4

Published in Print: April 28, 2004, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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